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Since I had a few days off, we decided to take a road trip.  My assignment here is almost complete, so we are trying to squeeze in as many adventures and outings as possible before we leave for our next location.

Since I am a little camera-crazy – we usually plan trips that give me the opportunity to practice a little photography.  It’s funny how I can always manage to cram in a bit of ‘homework’ where ever we are – I guess that is what makes photography such an addictive hobby.

As many of my readers know, I never meant to do more than the usual touristy snaps – but necessity forced me to become more and more adept, to illustrate my writing, and visually document my  interviews and observations.  As I’ve progressed from project to project – my writing style has evolved, my detailing has become more precise – and I’ve refined my picture-taking.

In the most recent months, as I begin researching the next project, I’ve started practicing by trying to expand my range, beyond the casual snapshot – to fast-motion, low-light and a variety of other conditions.

So we headed off to Shreveport, for some new scenery and more practice.

Low-light, No flash with a tripod 

captioned, postcard style

captioned, postcard style

I have always lacked confidence in my photo-taking, so I’ve resisted using a tripod for a long time (and missed a lot of great photos because if it).  But, I finally had to face it; it’s just impossible to keep still enough during the SLOW shutter speeds necessary to capture low-light situations..

Even so – the photo still has a lot of noise, or fuzziness..

During our trip, we attended a concert at the Strand theater..  Surprisingly, both the theater staff, and the performers explicitly lifted the usual rules to permit photography – which was just fantastic, even if only to get photos of the restored theater.. But it was even nicer that the performers invited us to take pictures.

(More about the beautiful and historic Strand theater in my next post.)

The freehand photos from the concert stage demonstrate this lack of definition (and noise) even more acutely.

shreve2 184

If you don’t take a lot of photos, than this post is probably boring beyond belief – but you also don’t know the frustration of seeing an image in your mind’s eye, and then struggling to capture that image with your lens.

But then too – comes that satisfaction when the shutter clicks and the image is immortalized – in your mind, and on file, forever.  (or at least until I crash the hard drive.)

With the help of several friends, amateur and professional photographers – I’ve learned a lot, in my efforts to move the image from my eye to the camera.  I’m not always successful, but I seem to be getting better and better..  But there are other issues in photography.

For me, that struggle is two-fold; it’s both accuracy and providing perspective. Accuracy seems like an oxymoron for photography – but it’s not.  The next photo is a good example of what I mean..

a country lane?

a country lane?

Accuracy in photography to me means depicting a person, place or circumstances as honestly and straightforwardly as possible.  Now, in a movie, I recently watched – “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel“, a group of English citizens decided to retire to a residential hotel in India based on a brochure, and the photos of the hotel in the brochure..

this 'romantic' backdrop for my lovely model is actually the corner of a somewhat dirty, beat-up parking lot in downtown Sherveport.

this ‘romantic’ backdrop for my lovely model is actually the corner of a somewhat dirty, beat-up parking lot in downtown Shreveport.

(I bet you can see where this is going.)  Of course, when they arrive in India – the group quickly finds out life in India (and their hotel) isn’t quite as cute, contained and photographic as the brochure led them to believe.

This isn't a great photo - but it does show the size and scale of some great art.  A mural, 14 stories tall, that is so detailed you can visualize the fabric of her dress..  (Note the size of the reference man walking on the sidewalk).

This isn’t a great photo – but it does show the size and scale of some great art.  This mural, 14 stories tall, is so detailed you can visualize the fabric of her dress.. (Note the size of the reference man walking on the sidewalk). It’s not crazy to want to be able to accurate capture that image just as it is.

With my style and type of writing, equally accurate photography is essential.

I also want to give perspective – whether that perspective is from peeking over the shoulder of a surgeon hard at work, the view from outside the operating room theater or even just the view from down the street.. (or even from really, really far away..)

washing a fire truck

washing a fire truck

That doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy the sweet, or romantic photos – like these pictures from the sidelines of a recent parade.   (I was across the street – quite a distance away – but just watching from behind a camera – really did seem to tell a story.)

court'n

another photo from the same St. Patrick’s Day parade

little Eviel Knievel jumping his bike while waiting for the parade

little Evel Knievel jumping his bike while waiting for the parade

I’ll post some more photos of Shreveport in my next post..

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Back in Mexicali after a week away at the nurse practitioner conference in Florida – and I am surprised by how much I missed the city.

a view of the city

To be sure, it lacks the glamour and sophistication of Bogotá, Medellin or Buenos Aires.  It doesn’t have the 500 years of history or Caribbean flavor that makes Cartagena such a vibrant city.  Yet – despite this, Mexicali remains the city by the fence – and the city that makes me want to stay on the Mexican side of the border.

Maybe it’s the casual friendliness of the city that grabs me, and embraces me.  The lack of pretension, the very earthiness of the barren,hard packed dirt and dusty surroundings draw me in – with the hidden pockets of Mexicali that beg to be explored.  Every brightly lit taco stand, the mom and pop establishments, and the upscale neighborhoods tucked away in tree-lined streets..

So, today after clinic, and rounds – we left the hospital and explored Mexicali – looking for photos to represent the Mexicali that I am coming to know, and which are often unseen by weekend tourists.

the main artery, which criss-cross the city

Having the good doc as a tour guide was an unexpected bonus – he knows the city so well, and was able to give background and insight into all of our destinations. Despite being from Sonora, he attended school here – making Mexicali very much his home.

as the capital of Baja California, there are numerous excellent educational facilities

I find taking city photos one of the more difficult aspects of writing.. Monuments aren’t all that exciting, and often the most interesting parts of cities aren’t the most photogenic ones..

This is one of Mexicali’s better known landmarks – the stadium used for bullfights.  The Mexicali sign is actually made of mirrored tile which glistens in the sun..

Mexicali landmark: Bullfighting stadium

We stopped by the Military base, because I have been fascinated by the military presence during the preparations for the elections – soldiers guard the electoral offices to prevent any sort of voting shenanigans.  (I’ll try to get a picture of the soldiers soon)

The good doctor laughs when I ask about military efforts and involvement abroad.  (Just because I’m not aware of the Mexican military overseas doesn’t mean they aren’t UN peacekeepers.. )  So I ask my questions about it and it is several minutes before he can stop laughing enough to even answer the question.  Funny, maybe.  But then – when you think of it kind of nice.  Mexico doesn’t attempt to police the world, and that’s okay..

“No, there’s no navy,” he laughs.. (Actually, there is a navy – which is also involved in trying to fight drug trafficking and gang activity).  But it’s nice that it’s apparently low-key enough that it doesn’t dominate the public’s attention.

Military base in Mexicali

Their primary function is more like our national guard – fighting against unrest (and now – narco-trafficking) at home.  Safeguarding elections and the general populace.  Keeping the border safe (yes – safe from all the violence endemic to satisfying the American thirst for drugs, and the underground importation of American weaponry).  I feel a little nervous taking pictures of the base, but no one seems to notice or approach me.  (My first attempts were semi-surreptitiously, but then, with encouragement, I got a little bolder.)

Today is the last day that the political candidates are allowed to campaign before the election, so we passed supporters for PRI (Enrique Pena) and PAN (Vasquez Mota).  I didn’t see anyone out there for AMLO or Quadri, but maybe they just weren’t as well represented.  After this – the candidates have to lay low for a few days so Mexican citizens can ‘reflect’ prior to the elections on Sunday.  That’s kind of a cool concept too – no endless barrage of media like the mega-campaigns at home.

Of course, I wish we could have a real workable multi-party system, so it’s not always a ‘lesser of two evils’ situation at home.  Maybe if we weren’t limited by having just two choices and two main parties – we might have more ‘shades of grey’ instead of all this extremism at both ends of the spectrum.. But it’s interesting to watch here, all the same, and I am glad that I have been here to experience it.

I hope I don’t alienate readers at home with my talk of politics – after all, I am not really a political animal, so ignore my musings, if you like..

In other news – it’s a bit frustrating when you have spent several months here – only that have the New York Times swoop down.. and all the doors that were closed to you (That’s you, Omar Dipp) suddenly burst open since they are a major news agency.  Of course, they had the mandatory patient testimonial,  – it was just the usual “medical tourism lite” style story that so often dominate the news.   Didn’t you just love the “nurses warm your hand…”  more like advertising than real journalism, but whatever..  (In fairness – I write a lot of “news lite” articles myself for outlets like Examiner.com which actually prefer this style, but those are usually 400 word pieces – and I’m not at the NYT, so of course, I am envious..

But it’s good for Mexicali – and all the hard-working doctors I’ve met here..  They certainly deserve the exposure!

Hopefully readers who want the real scoop on operating room conditions, doctors , etc.  will still know where to come for in-depth information..

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